The Golf Coaches Association of America, in cooperation with its long-time corporate partner, the Swing Thought Tour, will feature a monthly Q&A with former collegians who are currently playing or have played on the Swing Thought Tour. Long considered the premier developmental tour in the United States, thousands of former college players have started their professional careers there. More than 250 Swing Thought Tour alumni have or continue to play on the PGA TOUR.
This month we spoke with Joey Garber, a former All-American at the University of Georgia.
Q: What was your favorite thing about playing for Coach Haack while at Georgia?
My favorite thing about playing for Coach Haack was the impact he and Coach Douglas had on me as a person will forever outweigh the impact they had on me as a golfer. Haacker has a distinct way of handling things in such a situation and holding them in such a light that it makes right and wrong very clear. I don’t think I'd be nearly the golfer I am today without those two, but i know for a fact I’m a better person because of them.
Q: What was your favorite tournament to play while in college?
Our schedule changed a bit from year to year but the tournament in Puerto Rico always felt special to me. It was the one tournament, besides Conference, Regional, and Nationals that I played in all four years in school. I just felt at peace there, whether it was the awesome weather in February or the way the course set up for me I just always felt like I was going to play well there. Also, I think we were all eager to get out there and play after a long winter, and that was always our first event back.
Q: Were you able to get advice from some of your college teammates or friends on what the transition to professional golf would be like? What advice would you share with those players making that change?
I've been very fortunate to follow behind a lot of really great players at The University of Georgia. So I have developed relationships with them and did get advice then and continue to get it today. First and foremost, surround yourself with players who will challenge you and make you better. You can learn a lot from a round with a polished PGA Tour player; find them, play them, learn. Also, believe in your game, invest yourself in getting better but never losing sight of what got you where you are now.
Q: Did you find there was a big difference in going from team focused game (with individual components) in college to an individual focus as a professional?
Personally, no. I think once you step on the first tee, you're going to give it all you have for yourself or for your teammates. It doesn't change anything on the course, but off the course it changes a lot. That's probably where most players would associate the difference.
Q: What experiences as a student, outside of golf, do you think helped prepare you for life as a professional golfer?
Being responsible for your time. While I was at The University of Georgia I had to attend every class as a student-athlete. That allowed me to realize the importance of being poignant but also enabled me to see how much could be done in one day. Getting up early, getting your day started correctly, can be a huge boost in an athlete’s strive to get better.
Q: Earlier this year you had a 10 shot victory at the Texarkana Chamber Classic, including an opening round 62. What felt best about your game that week?
I felt very confident that week. The greens were very difficult to hole putts on so it became a bit of a mental stressor but I was able to put that behind me and hole a considerable amount of putts. I stood on almost every tee box expecting to make a birdie, I played very aggressively off the tee and on the approach and it paid off.
Q: You’ve played in PGA TOUR, Web.com Tour and Swing Thought Tour events this season. What unique challenges are there to that schedule?
I think there are a lot of challenges to playing somewhere where you might not be comfortable. The more time you see the same faces, the more times you see a course, the more familiar and comfortable you are. So the challenges it presented to me were that I needed to convince myself the game was no different. That if I stuck to my game and played my type of golf I could compete and be a contender on any Tour. I’m still working on that.
Q: What is the most important thing for you when you practice?
I try to hit shots on the range. Fades that land left of the target and draws that land right of the target. So much of my game is predicated on placement and distance control because I lack a bit of power that I feel I need to implement that in my practice. I often find myself thinking back to a shot I hit on the range while I’m on the course because I rely very much on my feel. I also don't hit a lot of golf balls, so it's important to be committed and attentive to all those shots.
Q: What do you like to do in your downtime off the course?
Being outside is important to me, so I do some paddleboarding, kayaking, running, and hiking. If I’m inside I’m likely listening to music, playing video games, cooking, or watching Netflix.
Q: Several alumni of the SwingThought Tour have gone on the great success on both the PGA and European Tours. What about the Tour prepares golfers for continued success as they progress through their careers?
The depth of talent you can get in a Swing Thought Tour event is going to make you better. It’s going to require you to play solid golf to make the cut and it’s going to take anyone’s best to win out there. Sometimes it just takes a couple of wins somewhere to get you to believe in yourself and then careers can take off from there.